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Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Fragrances that Cure – PART II

by Meenakshi Bhattacharjee

Mode of action of essential oils:
EO’s act as plant hormones, regulating plant functions and orchestrating the production of vitamins and enzymes. They act as messengers and supervisors within the plant that help coordinate and initiate vital plant activities. EO’s can also do the same when applied to humans. They can act as neurotransmitters, peptides, steroids, hormones, enzymes, vitamins, and other message-carrying molecules (called ligands) which intelligently assist our bodily functions and help to restore or maintain wellness. Homeostasis is that state where every vital biological process within a living organism is functioning as it should. It is a state of perfect wellness. EO’s always work toward restoring and maintaining balance and homeostasis, first in the plants who create them, and then in the humans who apply them. To say that an essential oil works toward balance and homeostasis means that the same oil can work in different directions depending on the needs of the plant or person. Oregano oil (Origanum vulgare) will kill hostile microbes while nurturing those that are friendly. Angelica oil (Angelica archangelica) can stimulate a uterus to contract or to relax depending on the need. Myrtle oil (Myrtus communis) is an adaptigen that can stimulate an increase or a decrease in thyroid activity depending on a person’s condition. Pharmaceutical drugs are incapable of such intelligent discriminations and act only in preprogrammed directions.
How does Aromatherapy work?
Researchers do not know the exact method aromatherapy works. They believe that our sense of smell may play a role. The smell receptor in the nose communicates with parts of the brain (amygdala and hippocampus) that serve as store houses of emotions and memories. When we breathe in essential oil molecules they stimulate the above mentioned parts of the brain and influence physical, mental and emotional health. It is believed that the EO molecules may interact with the hormones and enzymes in the blood.

What is aromatherapy good for?
This therapy is used in a wide range of settings from individuals to hospitals and health spas and to treat a variety of conditions. In general it seems to relieve pain, improve moods and promote a sense of relaxation. In fact several EO’s like lavender, rose, orange, bergamot, lemon, sandalwood and others have been shown to relieve anxiety, stress and depression. Several clinical studies suggest that when EO’s (particularly rose, lavender and frankincense)were used by qualified midwives by which pregnant women felt less anxiety and fear and had a stronger sense of well- being and therefore needed less pain medications during delivery. Many women reported less nausea and vomiting during labor.
Massage therapy with EO’s combined with medication may benefit people with depression. The scent is thought to stimulate positive emotions in the brain but the benefit seem to be related to the relaxation caused by the scent and massage. In one study Neroli oil helped to reduce blood pressure and pre procedure anxiety among people undergoing a colonoscopy. Preliminary studies have shown that the chemicals in EO’s have shown anti- bacterial and anti- fungal properties. Some evidence suggests that citrus oil may strengthen the immune system and peppermint oil may help in digestion. Fennel, aniseed, sage, and celery sage have estrogen like compounds which help to relieve symptoms of pre- menstrual syndrome and menopause. Other conditions in which aromatherapy may be helpful are hair loss; agitation related to dementia; anxiety; constipation; insomnia; pain of rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, headaches; itching; and psoriasis.
Should anyone avoid aromatherapy?
Pregnant women, people with severe asthma and people with a history of allergies should only use EO’s under the guidance of a trained professional with full knowledge of your physician. People with high blood pressure should avoid stimulating EO’s. People with estrogen dependent tumors should not use oils with estrogen like compounds. People receiving chemotherapy should talk to their doctor before starting aromatherapy.
Is there anything to watch out for?
Most tropical and inhaled EO’s are generally considered safe. One should never take EO’s by mouth unless under the guidance of a trained professional with full knowledge of your physician. Some oils may be toxic. Rarely aromatherapy can induce side effects such as rash, asthma, headaches, liver and nerve damage as well as harm to the fetus. Some oil can irritate the skin, so avoid using near the eyes. Also before use water or base massage oil should be mixed to the EO’s in such cases. EO’s are highly volatile and flammable so they should never be used near an open flame.
So next time you want to relax check out this amazing therapy and see how it calms you through its fragrance.


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